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How Body Posture Influences Brain Chemistry

How Body Posture Influences Brain Chemistry

by Andrew Willis Garcés

Have you ever wondered if or how body posture influences brain chemistry? File this under “very strange, but true” but how you sit and stand can change your brain’s neurochemistry. And your mood. And your memories. Oh, and it can affect your sense of self-confidence. (At this point you might be wondering, “Why do I need a therapist?! I’ll just change how I sit!”)

Researchers from Stanford and Columbia have found that using open, expansive postures — the shorthand often use is “powerful postures” — boosts your body’s production of testosterone, and decreases manufacture of the stress hormone cortisol. The “high-T, low-C” hormone profile is associated with many kinds of positive outcomes, like your body’s ability to successfully fight off infections.

And studies conducted at Harvard and Berkeley demonstrated that simply by adopting these “powerful” postures, subjects took risks they would not have otherwise — by adopting postures that they interpreted as confident, they increased their own self-confidence. Even though those same people reporting feeling just as anxious after “trying on” those postures.

Other studies have found that depressed people are more likely to remember positive experiences associated with elevated mood when they are sitting up straight, than if they are slumped over. It turns out there are benefits to sitting up at the dinner table beyond making your parents happy!

Curious about other articles that you might find of interest? Here are a couple you might enjoys:

Video Transcript:

Hey everyone, I’m Andrew Willis Garcés, I’m a counselor here at Just Mind and today I want to talk about body posture, which might seem weird since I’m a mental health counselor. I’m not a physical rehabilitation counselor. Um, but a fun fact I think is fun, I think is cool is that our body posture actually changes our neurochemistry and uh, and so researchers have, have tracked, are different body language, body postures, and talk about the difference between expressive postures that are more open and that we’re, taking up more space and we’re standing up taller and uh, the difference between those and more constricted postures where we’re sort of taking up less space and we look and feel less powerful. And it turns out also with the more expressive postures, um, our body actually gets more testosterone. We produce more testosterone and less of the stress hormone cortisol.

And that formula of higher testosterone, less cortisol. High T low C is actually beneficial for us in all kinds of ways, from just feeling less stress and less anxious oftentimes, but also, we’re more likely to remember positive memories were even more likely to experience what we’re doing right now as positive again. Uh, if we’re using these more expressive postures, um, and uh, we’re also more likely to take risks up to 45 percent more likely according to some studies which I thought would be useful to know also heading into the holidays here. Um, for a lot of us holidays can be stressful and sometimes they are. There are more opportunities for us to do socializing or having interactions with family members or coworkers that might be outside of our comfort zone. And so just being able to access more expressive or more powerful postures can actually support us in those experiences that otherwise might not work out as well for us. So, of course, there are other things we do in therapy to support longer term. If there are issues that our clients are having with anxiety or with depression or with their social relationships not being what they want. But this could be just a neat trick to access in the moment you’re accessing an expressive posture. So that’s it. And check out our website, JustMind.org for more tips from us. If you feel you need additional help, you can contact us to make a counseling appointment or check out our personal growth counseling services.

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